Robert Earl Camp was known as a tough, no nonsense judge and a penultimate politician during his day. Those who knew him also knew what a sincere and devoted dog owner the judge was.
Camp was admitted to the bar at the age of nineteen in 1902. From his earliest days as an attorney and a judge, Judge Camp, who married Capt. Hardy B. Smith's daughter Gussie, always kept an aide by his side. This companion was simply not some ambitious, fame seeking intern hoping for a prosperous position, but a four legged one, who in many ways, was his own master.
Robert Earl Camp served as Dublin City Attorney from 1906-1908, Assistant City Court Solicitor from 1908-1912 and as a Lieutenant Colonel on the Military Staff of Governor Thomas W. Hardwick, 1921-1925. Camp took his seat on the Judge's bench in 1925 and served two four-year terms. A politician, while he wasn't a judge, Camp served as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in San Francisco in 1920 and in Philadelphia in 1936. Camp, a member of he State Democratic Committee from 1936 to 1940, was named to the Electoral College which elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to an unprecedented third term in office. Judge Camp, too, was elected for the third time in 1940 and returned to the bench of the Superior Court.
Just before Christmas 1929, some eighty five years ago, Miss Ida Belle Williams, sister of Dublin attorney, George H. Williams, told the story of Camp's constant collie companion, Jeff. It was said that Jeff never failed to miss a session of court. Some even called him "the lawyer dog" or more prestigiously, "The Judge."
When Jeff wanted to enter the courtroom, his distinctive scratch was all it took to alert the bailiff to allow Jeff to prance with great circumstance. On the other hand, when Jeff decided he needed to go outside, he would promenade across the courtroom and stare straight into the eyes of the bailiff, who immediately affected his release.
Miss Williams, writing in her Macon Telegraph article, told of the day when Jeff noticed a crowd of people entering the auditorium. Assuming Judge Camp was about to hold court, Jeff entered the room. When Jeff realized that Judge Camp wasn't on the bench, the faithful pup poked his nose in the air with absolute disgust and stomped out of the meeting.
When it came time for his lunch and Judge Camp wasn't to be found, Jeff would stake out a strategic spot in the hallway at the base of the stairs leading up to the courtroom to await on his master's arrival.
In writing of Jeff's devilishness, Williams wrote, "Jeff manifests a deed of cleverness in his attacks upon E.G. Simmons' dog, who frequently carries in his mouth a nickel wrapped with paper, deposits it at a meat market and receives a bone. Old Jeff after observed the custom a few times, he came along to make an attack; lying in ambush at the opportune moment when Simmons' dog is passing the courthouse square, he leaps on him and seizes the prize. Then enough noise for a battle follows, when the defeated puppy realizes that his precious possession has fallen into the hands of his adversary." The bullying stopped when the Judge scolded Jeff for his bad behavior.
Popular among the city's grocers, Jeff often was the beneficiary of their free treats. Some of them maintained a special scrap section, from which Jeff would pick his favorite treat. When the dog would find his basket empty, he walked out in disgust, not even looking to nibble on delicious meats along his path.
When the Judge wasn't around, Ol' Jeff would cry and howl as he waited under the house for his return. Little could make him want to eat or chase a wandering, trespassing cat.
There was this one time when Judge Camp was gone and Jeff couldn't stand it any longer. Jeff set out on a quest, roaming all over town from the courthouse to the post office, the city hall and the judge's usual visiting places, until he came upon the skyscraper First National Bank building. Jeff rode the elevator to the top floor. Then the disconcerted dog descended one floor after another barking out calls for his master until he left the building in complete disappointment.
Like most dogs, Jeff liked to take walks with the Judge, barking greetings to everyone they met. He loved to ride in the Judge's car. Anytime, Jeff saw someone in the car, he knew it was time to take a ride and jumped into the auto ready to ride. One night, Jeff was mysteriously missing from the Camp home. After one fruitless search after another, all hope of Jeff being found was lost until Camp called his garage where his car was being stored. Upon an examination of the car, the attendant found Jeff sound asleep in his usual place in the car.
Camp was known to get up very early in the morning to study his cases for the upcoming day. Jeff was right there with him, sipping on his coffee to keep them both alert.
"He never waivers in his deep devotion to Mr. Camp, a true friend, the collie weeps and rejoices with his master. So many turn with the political compass. Others may back back when the tide of misfortune rushes in. But whether following over briery hills, through rocky paths or over dark threatening waters, this dog is faithful Jeff," Miss Williams concluded her feature on one of Dublin's most popular and beloved dogs.
In fact, what may have been the first instance of a humane society came about in February 1937 when the newly created City of Dublin dog catcher rounded up many dogs which were roaming the streets with no evidence of who their owners were or if they had been inoculated. The animal control officer, acting under the direction of the city council, began preparations to euthanize the animals. When Judge Camp found out, he, on behalf of himself and other dog lovers, sought out and obtained a restraining order from Judge J.L. Kent enjoining the mass euthanization. Sadly, the overzealous officer had already carried out his duty before receiving notice of the belated pardon. Camp continued his efforts to prevent such acts in the future.
Our lives are filled with the stories of dogs we have loved. They enter our lives as puppies, strays, adoptions or rescues. They end their lives as our best friends, our children and members of our own families. Most dogs have unconditional love for us. When we have had a bad day, they are there to greet us, tails wagging, running back and forth, howling and barking in adoration and affection. They give love and all they ask is love in return.
During this season of giving and love and throughout the year, give back to our four legged friends at your local humane society, animal shelter and rescue organizations. You never know whose life you may change by bringing that special dog into your life and the lives of others.
P.S. Don't forget the cats!